The term ‘Smart Motorway’ is used to describe a road that is controlled electronically. The new technology does not have a permanent hard shoulder and can be opened or closed to traffic based on the needs of the situation. For instance, if a vehicle is breaking down, a smart motorway can close the road to the traffic behind it, ensuring a safer journey for all drivers.
The driving protocol on a smart motorway is a bit more complex than standard roads, but it is simple and intuitive. It includes adhering to the speed limit and following overhead signs. There are emergency refuge areas that are not long enough for drivers to rejoin the motorway. Drivers must call the control centre if they get stuck in one of these areas. In addition, overhead signs display variable speed limits and warnings.
Another feature of smart motorways is ramp signalling. This technology helps traffic enter the motorway steadily, improving merging at on-ramps. The time between green lights can be adjusted according to the amount of traffic waiting to enter the motorway. On the M4, for example, variable message signs are used to let drivers know about road conditions ahead. Another smart motorway feature is lane use management. This technology allows traffic managers to open lanes or change speed limits in response to traffic needs.
Another feature of a smart motorway is its use of the hard shoulder. A dynamic hard shoulder is opened as a running lane during peak traffic hours. A solid white line separates this running lane from the normal carriageway. Signs on the overhead lane tell drivers if the hard shoulder should be used or not. It must not be used with blank signs, red X signs, or variable message signs.
Safety measures on a smart motorway will take some time to install. There may be some concerns if the motorway is not equipped with a hard shoulder. Drivers may also be concerned that the hard shoulder will be removed, making it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass through fast-flowing traffic. If a crash does occur, emergency vehicles could have trouble reaching the scene despite their clear visibility. For Chapter 8 Chevrons, go to www.vehiclechevrons.com.
They were seen as an alternative to costly road widening schemes and were rolled out in the busiest parts of the country in 2013. However, despite its advantages, the technology is still largely untapped and controversial. Only half of drivers know the technology exists and are familiar with its features.